Airbnb.com freelance photography assignment- an opportunity not worth taking
Today I thought that I’d change my usual solely photobased posting habits in order to tell followers of my blog and the world wide web at large of my experiences working as a freelance photographer for the popular travel accommodation site airbnb. These experiences were not good and since a lot of people who visit my blog may well be photographers themselves and might get scouted by airbnb to work for them just as I was, I thought I should let you know that I think it’s a thoroughly bad idea.
About 2 months ago now, a worker for airbnb saw my photos on this site and posted in my about section that airbnb would like to hire me for some freelance photographic assignments. I jumped at this opportunity to expand my portfolio, make a little pocket money, and see a little more of the countryside whilst on the job.
Right from the off this seemed like a great chance for me, and within hours of signing up, my dashboard was filled to capacity with 5 jobs around Galway city which could net me nearly 300 euros for a day’s work. Optimistic I know, but even if it took a month to take these pictures I’d have been happy to be making something off of my photography. As it turned out, these jobs had already been given to other photographers, I found this out after waiting for a couple of weeks and getting no response from hosts who apparently never needed photos of their listings taken, or messages from other hosts saying they’d already had their shots taken by somebody else.
After deleting all but one job from my formerly heaving dashboard, I was happy to at least to be able to try my hand at one job which also happened to take me out to a nice part of Galway out at Kinvara. This job was nearly 30 kilometers away though, and airbnb only give a travel allowance for 15 k, so I was immediately going to be out of pocket after getting the bus out, but what the hell I thought, the 50 euros will cover it and I’ll still have the experience anyhow.
To cut a long story short, I did the job, enjoyed it, uploaded the photos sharpish, and then waited for a month to be told that my photos didn’t fit the bill and I’d have to reshoot the property. None of my queries since that rejection nearly 2 weeks ago have been replied to.
Working for airbnb has been a frustrating experience for me, leaving me as broke as when I began, alongside an unhappy client who has been waiting to have their listing photographed for months and who also doesn’t receive any response from airbnb to their queries.
I wrote this post so that anybody else in the same position as me two months ago, excited by the prospect of some freelance photography work, happy to sign a contract with airbnb which basically leaves them completely bereft of their rights as photographers, knows that it’s not such a great prospect as it seems, and learns from my lapses of judgement.
Here is a copy of my correspondence with airbnb just so that people can see how inept their communications really are.
Also, let me know if anybody else has any other experiences with airbnb, either good or bad, perhaps I was just unlucky, though I do doubt it.
As well, here are some of the shots that I took of the listing out at Kinvara, let me know if there’s something I’m missing and in fact they are terrible!
Dear whomever it concerns,
I am writing this letter to whomever it concerns, because I have no idea who is actually going to read this email and respond. Another of airbnb’s little quirks is that workers for your company don’t even deem it necessary to sign off on their correspondence and actually let me know who I’m addressing, but nonetheless I’ll persevere in speaking to an imagined receiver of this email.
Surely airbnb realise that if somebody sends me a message concerning my work that I should be able to speak to that person directly, instead of going round in circles sending emails to god knows who, but it seems clear that airbnb have no interest in making their photographer’s lives any easier, or even their own for that matter judging by how inept your company handles something as basic as giving a photographer and job and then paying them for it.
My work has just been rejected for a listing for the second time by the same person, yet I’ve got no facility to ask this person what they found wrong with my work. The person who seems to have rejected my work is an airbnb auditor called Schidume. On the 21st of March, 7 working days after I had uploaded my shoot, I finally got a response from this auditor. In airbnb’s own photography manual it says that photographers will be paid within 2-5 business days of a photographer uploading their work. Why can airbnb not meet the very standards they themselves set in their photography manual? Also why do they set themselves standards they can’t keep to and don’t refer to, nor apologise for the fact they are breaking their agreement with me.
In this message Schidume writes: Some of these images are a bit too dark. It is better for Airbnb’s purposes if our photographers error on the side of overexposure, utilizing as much natural light as possible. That way, the images will always be bright, clean and inviting. Please lighten these images up and resubmit so that we may pay you promptly.
Strange I thought to myself, airbnb asking photographer’s to overexpose their photos, which goes against my training as a photographer, but you’re the boss I said to myself as I then re-edited my photos to meet airbnb’s standards.
Surely now I can finally get paid I thought, having done exactly as airbnb asked me to do.
I then waited another week to get another rejection email from this mysterious Schidume auditor.
Here is what he now wrote to me, which seemed bizarrely different from what I was told the week before:
Hi Feargal, After taking a second look at this shoot, I’m sorry but I cannot accept it. The angles that you shot just don’t tell me much about the space. What kind of lens are you using? The images are too tight and this place looks quite spacious. I need to ask that you go back and re-shoot. Please take a look at this:http://www.airbnb.com/rooms/361793 I was the photographer for this listing. I’m using a 10-20mm lens and a standard 18-55mm lens for some of the closer shots. I did not use a flash, all natural lighting, with a combination of indoor lighting. All the windows were open . That way I didn’t relay on a flash, and I didn’t have to use my tripod either. This is what I’m expecting to see from all of our photographers. It looks like this place had a pretty nice amount of natural light, so it really shouldn’t be a problem. Verify you focus/sharpness and take multiple shots. For the shoot I’m showing you, I took about 80 images. They were not all great, but that way you will have options. I understand that not places will look ideal, but here are some things to take in consideration: exposure, color balance, sharpness, composition. Make sure that all the windows are open, turn on all the lights, make sure your horizon lines are straight. We don’t really want images of the exterior, unless there’s something special about it. Thanks! I really hope this helps you have more successful shoots. Trust me, I don’t like rejecting shoots Thanks! Shidume
Now I feel quite certain that whoever is reading this email on behalf of airbnb can discern that there is no logical link between these two messages that I’ve received from this enigmatic Schidume character. The first photos were fine, but a little too dark, make them lighter and you’ll get paid is what he said in his first critique of my images. Yet now that he’s taken a second look he can see that now all the angles are wrong and that my photos are now useless and that I have to reshoot the entire listing.
Please do explain to me how the same images can metamorphose themselves according to the whims of Schidume. Either the photos were wrong to begin with and this Schidume fellow wasted another few hours of my life by directing me to tinker with photos that he didn’t want to begin with. Or else, this character Schidume doesn’t really know his arse from his elbow when it comes to photography and doesn’t even have the skills in auditing to at least be consistent in his criticism and rejection of good photographic work.
This second email seems to me a completely generic message layout for rejecting photos also, it doesn’t address any specific issues with my photos whatsoever. It says “the angles that I shot don’t tell me much about the space” How exactly is this the case? can airbnb provide me with some examples of these bad angles? Airbnb direct photographers to shoot into corners, which is exactly what I did, landscape aspect? check. Wide angle lens? check etc. etc. Schidume even has the cheek to tell me that the place looks spacious. Schidume hasn’t actually seen this listing presumably, so how does he know it looks spacious? I guess my photographs are the only way that he could tell how somewhere looks? therefore my photos make the place look spacious, so what in the world is he complaining about?!?!
Some of the rooms in the listing where in fact very small, for some shots of the bedroom i actually had to go outside and shoot through the window to make the place look more spacious, but of course Schidume knows better than me or the people who own the listing about how it looks and how it should be shot. Throughout my shoot I engaged with the hosts and asked them what aspects they would like to show off in their place and I even give them a quick preview of some of the shots that I was taking. They seemed very happy with how my photos were showing off their space, why is it that airbnb seem to know better than the photographer and the owner of a listing regarding how it should look?
Schidume also provides a link that shows off some of his great photographic work presumably as aspirational material to failed photographers like myself. This is the link that he provides -:http://www.airbnb.com/rooms/361793.
Most of these photos are quite good and showcase the listing quite well, though they are all very much over exposed. There are shots in this group though, which as a photographer I find downright offensive. There are shots included in this set of photos that are quite obviously stitches of two different photos placed together at odd and confusing angles. There is a shot of the bathrrom and one of the bedroom that are edited and stuck together in this erratic manner which tells the photographs’ viewers nothing about the actual place and is in fact utterly confusing. Are airbnb saying that this is how I should take my photos, stick together two photos shot at different angles in order to get paid? Schidume then goes onto give me a beginner’s lesson in what a photograph is and how I might go about taking it. At this stage he is talking in utter irrelevancies, “use natural light and a tripod” “make sure your images are sharp” he says. Why do i have to be told this, none of these were highlighting as issues in the 25 plus shots that i submitted so why in the email that explains why my photos got rejected is this person going off in such tangents?? Schidume took 80 shots for this shoot. Well done Schidume, I took over 100 for mine and spent over 2 hours photographing this host’s listing. I could still make use of these images and resubmit photos that are to airbnb’s tastes, but I don’t even believe that airbnb knows what the hell they are looking for from their photographers. And if they do know, it doesn’t excuse the fact they are appallingly bad at communicating these requirements to their photographers. Schidume also questions what lens I used etc? Well surely Schidume can look at the icc profile embedded into each of my pictures if he is curious about how I took any of my shots? I actually shot all the photographs of this listing at a minimum of 18mm wide angled. If this wasn’t wide enough for airbnb and they prefer super wide photography then they should make it a requirement for photographers before they photograph a listing and not after. I followed all of airbnbs guidelines and manuals in order to shoot this job who they wanted it be shot. I see no way that I have broken my contract or taken substandard shots. I therefore demand to be paid for the many hours that I have already put into this job.
The rejection email that I received is just another in a long list of quite bizarre and utterly confusing requests and statements that I’ve received from Airbnb since I was scouted by your company over a month ago. Right from when I received 5 jobs into my dashboard almost immediately only to find out that they’d all actually been given out to other photographers already when I emailed the hosts, I knew that airbnb is not an efficient nor trustworthy company. Then when I kept receiving jobs into my dashboard from places as far away as Cork- a 3 hour drive away, then I knew this freelance gig wasn’t as great as it seemed. All these elements display hopeless inefficiencies in communication within airbnb that makes it look like the right hand has no idea what the left hand is doing and that it’s not even really worthwhile for myself trying to communicate with your company at the end of the day, cause you don’t even seem to know how to talk amongst yourselves.
All that I demand is that I get paid for the freelance work that I’ve done with airbnb until a satisfactory reason is given why I shouldn’t be paid.
If airbnb refuse to fairly pay me for the work that I carried out for your company, then I shall give the hosts the photos that they deserve anyhow after being screwed around for a month by your company. I shall also badmouth your company and your freelance assignments through the vehicles of my popular photoblog and website and the many other photographic communities than I am a member of. I shall do this so that any prospective airbnb photographer similar to myself one month ago, googling airbnb after I was approached approached with work, shall know the true hazards of working for your company and they won’t make the same mistakes that I did in trying to carry out good work for you and actually hoping to get paid for the pleasure.
Date: Thu, 29 Mar 2012 09:45:58 -0400
Subject: Re: rejected submission
If both jobs are back in your accepted section, this means that both were rejected. They came back into Accepted at different times because they were reviewed and rejected at different times. You should have a rejection email for both. Please check your spam folder.
I did not reject the jobs so I do not know exactly why they were rejected. You mentioned the auditor said the photos were too dark. You also mention the number of photos. We require at least 10, so 20 for each is sufficient.
You will be paid 50 euros + travel for each.
I’m sorry you are receiving far away jobs. This is a bug that we have right now, and we’re working on it as fast as possible. In the meantime, please decline any jobs that are too far away.
I hope this clears everything up.
On Wed, Mar 28, 2012 at 7:14 AM, Feargal Norton wrote:
I think my question is pretty clear really. I took pictures of one residency for airbnb out at Crannagh, Kinvara, Co. Galway. This consisted of accepting two different jobs for one residential listing from airbnb, a job listing the double bedroom, and another job listing the en-suite in the same building. I treated them as two different jobs and took about 20 pictures of each listing. I then uploaded two separate sets of pictures for each. Only one set of these pictures was apparently rejected though for being too dark, and I’m not sure what happened to the other set of photos. When I was rejected there is only one job in my completed jobs section listed as completed but rejected, so I only had the option of reuploading for one job, whereas I had uploaded for two. Now the listing is back as two different jobs in my accepted jobs section, can’t you see how this seems strange?
I want airbnb to make it clear whether they want 20 pictures of one listing for the job, or if they want 40 for the two listing, and whether I am going to get paid 100 euros for my work or 50. I don’t see how I can make myself much clearer, and I really think airbnb should be making life a lot easier for their freelance photographers.
I have been given jobs that have been sent to many different photographers at once already, when I was led to believe a job is only sent to one photographer at a time, though hosts have told me this very much was not the case. I have also been given jobs offers from all over the country, instead of my local area. I’ve had jobs sent to me for Cork city which is a 3 hour drive away, as well as two others that have been over 50 miles away. A 15 dollar allowance simply doesn’t cover such trips, so I’m not interested in these jobs.
So please clarify these issues for me, so I can upload the pictures that I have taken already for airbnb, and perhaps in the future even take some more.
Date: Tue, 27 Mar 2012 11:00:04 -0400
Subject: Re: rejected submission
25 photos is just the right amount for each listing.
Sounds like both listings were rejected because the auditor wants you to edit them. So, please edit and resubmit.
I’m afraid I’m not clear on what you are confused about. If you can clarify a bit more, I should be able to assist better.
On Mon, Mar 26, 2012 at 9:19 AM, Feargal Norton wrote:
I’ve just been told that my images for my job photographing a listing at Kinvara, Co. Galway have been rejected for being too dark. This is fine, and if airbnb think so I can resubmit them looking a little bit brighter without much of a problem. However, I’m confused as to how airbnb are sending me this job and how I’m supposed to respond. I accepted this listing as two different jobs, taking two different sets of pictures of different rooms. This added up to about 25 pictures submitted for the 2 different listings, however, when the job was rejected it went back to one job listing, and now it’s back in my accepted jobs, it’s back to two different listings again.
Can you explain what the meaning of this is, and how I am supposed to approach photographing and uploading listings when airbnb seem to keep confusing what a job entails?
I would like to know how many photographs I am expected to upload and how many jobs I am actually supposed to carry out so I can successfully complete my work as a freelance photographer for airbnb.
Subject: getting paid
Date: Tue, 20 Mar 2012 13:15:47 +0000
I was just wondering why I haven’t been paid for the completed jobs that I have done for air bnb despite having uploaded pictures more than 5 days ago?